(Bloomberg) The last of Bernard Madoff’s employees to be sentenced in the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history was ordered to serve six months in prison after pleading for mercy because of his failing health.

Irwin Lipkin, the first non-family member that Madoff hired for his investment firm in 1964, had asked U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan to spare him jail time and sentence him to probation. He didn’t get it, but the judge said the Bureau of Prisons could convert his 6-month sentence to a term of home confinement if it wants.

Lipkin, 77, sought forgiveness.

“If I had known what I know now, I would have never have done these things,” Lipkin told Swain before he was sentenced.

Lipkin retired from Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in 1998, after more than three decades at the firm. He pleaded guilty in November 2012, four years after Madoff’s arrest, admitting he falsified books and records while claiming he didn’t know Madoff was running a vast fraud.

Under a plea agreement, Lipkin faced as long as 10 years. Prosecutors said a decade behind bars was too long given his deteriorating health but pushed for some prison time.

“Year after year, decade after decade, Lipkin helped perpetrate crimes that victimized thousands of people and caused billions of dollars in damages,” prosecutors said in a July 31 court filing. “His conduct was central—not ‘peripheral.’”

Severe Depression
Lipkin suffers from severe depression and diminished heart- pumping capacity and previously had a heart attack, according to his July 24 court filing. He said he takes medication for high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, has a severely hunched back and can walk only 20 to 50 feet at a time.

Lipkin “may not be able to manage the rigors of incarceration,” defense attorney Richard Galler told the judge. “He’s frail, and couldn’t get around a prison environment.”

Lipkin, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, was also ordered to serve 18 months of home confinement after he leaves prison.

According to a forfeiture agreement, Lipkin is on the hook for $170 billion in cash and must give up his Rolex watch, a painting by the comedian Red Skelton, some investments and his home in Delray Beach, Florida. He may keep his house in Paramus, New Jersey, and his stamp collection, among other items.

Madoff, 77, is serving a 150-year sentence in a federal prison in North Carolina.

“This wasn’t just Bernard Madoff’s crime,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Abramowicz said in court. “It was also Irwin Lipkin’s crime.”

The case is U.S. v. Lipkin, 10-cr-00228, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

—With assistance from Bob Van Voris in federal court in Manhattan.

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